A reclaimed island in the Thames estuary, the low lying island of Canvey has always found its identity defined by the sea and simultaneously threatened by it. In the nineteenth century Canvey was a popular seaside resort for the residents of London’s east end and the island retains a distinctive character as a result. However the rise of cheap foreign travel and a major flood in 1953 put an end to the island’s reputation as ‘England’s Lourdes’. In the aftermath of the flood a vast network of sea defences was constructed, protecting the island but simultaneously separating it from the sea.
Combining elements of oral history and documentary photography, Canvey Island examines the collective memory of the flood and the state of the island today through interviews with five prominent locals and a series of landscape photographs of the island. The sea, or the separating sea wall, looms large throughout the series, as it does for anyone who lives or spends time on the island.